11 March 2014

South Africa: Increased Drownings, Rescues Country-Wide Due to Floods

Johannesburg — Rising floodwater levels have caused havoc with an increasing number of drownings and rescues taking place in parts of the country.

In Limpopo, about seven people were almost washed away in a bakkie in Zebediela, Polokwane, on Monday morning, ER24 spokeswoman Luyanda Majija said.

The group was trapped in the road where the water was about 50cm deep. They managed to get to semi-dry land unharmed, Majija said.

The bakkie was removed by the fire department.

Limpopo police Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said an elderly woman who was swept away with her husband while swimming in Bela-Bela at the weekend was still missing on Tuesday.

The two were swimming in an undercover swimming pool at the Kariba Lodge on Friday when the Bela-Bela dam overflowed and they were swept away.

The body of a 74-year-old man was found on Saturday. The search for the 69-year-old woman was continuing, he said.

Majija said a group of men were rescued by helicopter from rising water caused by the overflowing Mogol River in Vaalwater, Limpopo, over the weekend.

In Bloemfontein, paramedics attended to a number of collisions caused by heavy rain which started just after 6pm on Monday, she said.

"Although the collisions were minor, getting to the separate scenes has proven difficult for responding paramedics due to heavy traffic."

The Kruger National Park said on Tuesday its bush camps would remain closed due to continuing floods in the area, SA National Parks spokesman Reynold Thakhuli said on Tuesday.

Although water levels in the Limpopo, Letaba, Levuvhu, and Crocodile rivers had dropped, all gravel roads in the Marula region of the park were closed.

He said more heavy rain was expected in the region.

Meanwhile, in Mpumalanga, six people drowned in various parts of the province between Friday and Monday due to heavy flooding, SA police services diving unit spokeswoman Captain Joey Potgieter said.

In North West, Cosatu warned people living near low lying areas and water sources in the province to exercise caution and to relocate if possible.

"If there is a need they must relocate as soon as possible to avoid further disasters," Congress of SA Trade Unions provincial secretary Solly Phetoe said in a statement.

A method should also be developed to assist pupils in the area who were unable to get to school due to infrastructure damage and transport difficulties, Phetoe said.

"[We] plead with the educators to develop some means to assist those scholars with a catch-up plan... and also the parents to be part of their children's education program in dealing with those challenges."

He urged people and government to provide assistance to those who were affected by the floods.

"We call on all our members and other stakeholders to join all our affected municipalities and government to help with all they can for our poor communities."

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